Project Profile: JEA Headquarters
With a focus on sustainability (LEED Gold certification pending), energy efficiency and resiliency, it is the most sustainable building in North Florida
Engineering firm: TLC Engineering Solutions
2023 MEP Giants rank: 25
Project: JEA Headquarters
Location: Jacksonville, FL, United States
Building type: Office building; parking garage/service station
Project type: New construction
Engineering services: Automation, controls; commissioning, retro-commissioning; electrical, power; energy, sustainability; HVAC, mechanical; lighting; plumbing, piping; renewable energy (PV) design/commissioning
Project timeline: July 2019 to April 2023
MEP/FP engineering budget: $20 million
The new corporate headquarters for Jacksonville Electric Authority (JEA) is a magnificent, high-rise, class-A office building that has helped transform downtown Jacksonville. With a focus on sustainability (LEED Gold certification pending), energy efficiency and resiliency, it is the most sustainable building in North Florida. But as with any large public construction project, it had challenges and opportunities.
The building was conceived as a design-build lease-back project; Ryan Companies was selected by JEA (the leasing tenant) as the developer and design-builder. TLC Engineering Solutions was the commissioning provider (CxP).
Project challenges: The building was constructed as two project phases: core & shell (CS) and tenant infill (TI) projects, with TLC as the CxP for both phases. Although both phases were constructed by the same design-built team, there were two different engineering design firms for the CS and TI and two different HVAC controls systems sub-contractors for the CS and TI.
Integrating two different HVAC control systems in the same building can be challenging; it became even more challenging when the overall project duration was extended over a year from the originally planned completion date. As one would expect with an extended construction schedule, the design-build team saw multiple personnel changes when equipment start-up and functional testing should have been starting.
It was decided to defer functional acceptance testing for the majority of the core building MEP systems until the completion of the TI phase. As expected, commissioning two different HVAC control systems in two different project phases resulted in repeated testing of the same equipment, to the frustration of everyone involved.
The building’s smoke control system presented another set of challenges. Originally specified to be provided by the controls contractor, the smoke control panel (SCP) was moved into the fire alarm contractor’s scope of work. This led to additional integration challenges with the fans, HVAC controls, and other equipment that now had to be controlled by a fire alarm-based SCP.
The key to overcoming challenges like these is the same as overcoming any challenge on any commissioning project – having a dedicated, experienced commissioning team that perseveres thru the challenges and leads (sometimes drags) the entire owner/engineer/construction team thru the commissioning process. A well-thought-out, project-specific commissioning plan coordinated with and has buy-in from the entire construction team is also essential.
But the most impactful strategy in meeting the JEA Headquarters’ challenges was integrated systems testing (IST). Simply put, IST is the testing of all building systems together under multiple building conditions and event possibilities. While not part of the original Cx Plan or Cx scope of work, the entire team – Owner, design-builder, sub-contractors, engineers, and CxPs – agreed that it was essential to test this complex high-performing building, built in multiple phases with two different controls systems, not only during “blue sky” conditions but also in emergency scenarios. As the CxP, TLC took the lead in developing the IST test procedures and worked closely with the entire team to plan the testing.
Performed at the end of the TI phase, the integrated systems testing focused on the interoperability of all of the MEP system components while connected to utility power, emergency power system, and while connected to a portable whole-building generator. The integrated systems test included the following:
- All HVAC equipment
- Building Automation Systems (BAS) – CS & TI systems working together
- Fire alarm systems, including testing HVAC shut down while on emergency power
- Smoke control system
- Emergency lighting
- Access Control Systems
- Building network and other IT systems
IST Step 1: After a full team kickoff and safety briefing, the IST started by performing a “black site test” – simulating a building-wide power loss by opening the main service breaker for the building.
IST Step 2: After verifying that the emergency generator started and all transfer switches transferred (the entire emergency power system had already been fully commissioned), we verified all of the systems that were supposed to be operating on emergency power were operating, including HVAC and BAS.
IST Step 3: With the building on emergency power only, we tested the HVAC systems, BAS, smoke control, and fire alarm systems. We also verified the operation of IT equipment, access control, and other key building systems.
IST Step 4: A 1.7MW portable generator (owned by JEA) was connected to the building, switchover procedures were tested, and IST tests were repeated while the building was connected to the portable generator.
IST Step 5: Utility power was restored to the building, and testing of the systems was repeated to make sure they were still operating as intended after the re-transfer to utility power.
While a handful of testing issues and operations recommendations were discovered during the IST, all of the issues were quickly addressed. Having gone through the entire commissioning process and the integrated systems testing, the entire team was confident in the building’s operation.